In welcoming a record-high number of graduate optometrists to the business in a three-day induction, Specsavers Australia & New Zealand has broken another record, with the largest cohort of graduate optometrists involved in the two-year Specsavers Graduate Program at any one time.

One hundred and fifty-two graduates recently commenced their career with Specsavers – representing a 50 per cent increase on the previous year – and almost 130 attended the Graduate Induction event held in Melbourne from 18 to 20 February. Historically, the Induction has been held at Specsavers’ Port Melbourne-based Support Office, however, this year, due to the volume of attendees, two days of the event took place at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The overarching aim of the Induction is to help the graduates understand Specsavers’ vision and values, and gain insight into the current and future direction of the business. Tying these important messages together is Specsavers’ ‘Transforming eye health’ mission. Learning more about this mission, the graduates heard about the value of using data and evidence of measurable outcomes to guide best clinical practice, and how they would be empowered to steer their own professional development through the provision of professional benchmark summaries. These summaries contain information on how each optometrist’s individual referral patterns compare to their peers and others in their region, allowing them to reflect on their practice.

They also heard about Specsavers’ pioneering collaborations with eye health stakeholders such as RANZCO, Glaucoma Australia, Diabetes Australia, government, and technology providers to achieve better health outcomes for Australians and New Zealanders. The most recent example of this is the KeepSight national diabetes eye screening program, towards which Specsavers has committed $5 million. Another example is the current rollout of OCT across Specsavers’ Australian and New Zealand store network, with scans being performed on all patients as part of the standard eye exam and at no additional cost.

The practical side of being a Specsavers optometrist was covered in a series of presentations and workshops delivered by Specsavers Support Office staff and current store partners. The graduates learned how to apply the knowledge and skills gained during university to the retail optometry setting, and were educated on Specsavers’ store processes, procedures and product range.

Professional conduct was discussed in detail, with sessions providing guidance and advice on CPD requirements, Medicare and professional fees, professional communication, and application of therapeutics. For the first time, the Induction program featured a case study discussion on the final day. Visualising themselves in the clinic, graduates were given the opportunity to apply what they had learned during Induction as a practice exercise. They then received feedback and advice as they watched best practice modelled by their colleagues and mentors.

Recognising that the transition from university to full-time clinical practice can be extremely challenging, the Induction also included a module on wellbeing and resilience to ensure the graduates kept their mental health top-of-mind.

A team of 13 facilitators – composed of second-year graduates, Specsavers Graduate Program alumni, and store partners – supported the delivery of the Graduate Induction throughout the three days. The facilitators led discussions with the new graduates to help consolidate their learning, and were available to share their advice and answer questions from the perspective of someone who had experienced the Specsavers Graduate Program.

Beyond ensuring the graduates are equipped with all the knowledge and resources they need to excel in the clinical and commercial aspects of optometry, another major focus for the Induction is to provide the graduates with the opportunity to connect with their peers and the Support Office staff they will regularly encounter throughout their Specsavers careers. In addition to networking over meals between presentations and bonding in group activities, the graduates were able to socialise and relax during the Welcome Event held at Eureka 89, where they enjoyed spectacular views of Melbourne while enjoying drinks and canapes.

The February 2019 intake of graduates means there are more than 250 graduate optometrists currently on the two-year Specsavers Graduate Program. This number is set to grow further, with a second Graduate Induction event to take place in August 2019.